Altibox Norway Chess: Firouzja grabs the lead

by André Schulz
10/12/2020 – In the sixth round, Fabiano Caruana took down former leader Levon Aronian. The beneficiary of the defeat was Alireza Firouzja, who won against Aryan Tari and thus took the lead. Magnus Carlsen bounced back from his loss on Saturday and defeated Jan-Krzysztof Duda — the world champion is in third place. | Photos: Lennart Ootes

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Carlsen bounces back

Every streak comes to an end, including Magnus Carlsen’s long series of tournament games which he survived without defeat — they were 125 games in a row. The last defeat was on 31 July 2018, when Magnus Carlsen lost to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov at the Biel Chess Festival. The world champion then won or drew all his remaining games. 

Against Jan-Krzysztof Duda in the fifth round, Carlsen pushed too hard with the black pieces and had to feel the bitter taste of defeat once again, which is so rare for him. The beginning of a new streak? Probably.

Carlsen 3:0 Duda

Magnus Carlsen at work

The second half of the event is played with reversed colours, and Magnus Carlsen was immediately paired up against the young Polish star. The world champion made short work of his opponent this time around. Soon after the seemingly harmless opening, Carlsen made a pawn sacrifice that led to this position:

 

Black has an extra pawn, but the white bishop pair is enormously strong. To go for the immediate 19.b4 would be responded by 19...Bd3, so...

19.Rd1 Rc8 20.b4 Bb7 21.Be4 [Also strong is 21.Bxf6 gxf6 (21...Rxf6 22.Rxf6 gxf6 23.Bh5) 22.Rd4]

21...Bd5 [21...Bxe4 22.Qxe4 Qg6 (22...g6 23.Qe5) 23.Qe5 Rxc2 24.Rxc2]

22.Rxf8+ Qxf8 23.Bb1 [23.Bb3!?]

23...Qxb4? [Loses immediately. Better is 23...h6 24.Bg3 Re8 25.Bh5 with a superior position for White.]

 

24.Nf6+! Kh8 [24...gxf6 25.Qxe6+ wins the rook.]

25.Qxe6 Ra8 26.Qxd5 [26.Qxd5 Qxb2 27.Qe4 g6 28.Qe7] 1–0

Aronian 0:3 Caruana

An exciting game, with the “boss” watching

Before the sixth round Levon Aronian was in the lead. Against Fabiano Caruana, the Armenian created a strong attack, but suddenly the American grandmaster uncorked a clever counterattack:

 

22.Qd3 White has a strong attack. 22...f5 23.g4?!

[Stronger was 23.Ng5!? Be8 (23...Kg8 24.Bb3 Bc8 25.Nxf7 Kxf7 26.Qe3 Kg8 27.Nxe6 Bxe6 28.Rxd8 Rxd8 29.Qg5+ Kh8 30.Rxe6 — with the threat 31.h6 — and 32.Qf6+) 24.Qe2 with strong threats against e6.]

23...f6 [23...Qf4!?]

24.g5 Qf4 25.gxf6 Qg4+ 26.Kf1 Qh3+ 27.Ke2 Nd5 [Objectively (according to the machine) the chances are equal, but White has suddenly gone from attack to defence. 28...Nf4 is an ugly threat.]

28.Qd2 [28.Kd2? Bh6+]

 

28...Bb5+! [To open the d-file. Weaker is 28...Qg4 29.Rg1 Qf4 30.Qxf4 Nxf4+ 31.Kf1+–]

29.Nxb5 Qg4! [29...axb5? 30.Rg1 and the tide would have turned again.]

30.Qg5 [30.Rg1 Nf4+]

30...Nf4+ 31.Ke3 Ng2+ 32.Ke2 Qc4+ 33.Bd3 Rxd3

 

34.Rxd3

[After 34.Ne5! the evaluation remains balanced: 34...Nf4+ (34...Rxd1+ 35.Kxd1 Qxb5 36.Nf7#) 35.Kf1 Rg3+ 36.Nxc4 Rxg5 37.Nd4 Rxh5 38.Kg1 Bh6 39.f7 and perpetual check seems to be the best for black. 39...Rg5+]

34...Nf4+ 35.Ke3

[The only move was 35.Qxf4 and 35...Qxf4 36.Rd4 Qh6 (36...Qb8 37.Rd7! Qf4 (After 37...axb5 38.Rg1 Bh6 39.f7 Qf4 40.Re7 gives white perpetual check: 40...Qe4+ 41.Kf1 Qd3+ 42.Ke1 Qb1+) 38.Rd4 Qh6) 37.Nc7 Rc8 38.Nxe6 Re8 39.Kd3 Qxf6 40.Nxf8 Rxe1 41.Nxe1 Qxf8 and the game is not yet decided.]

35...Qe4+ 36.Kd2 Qxd3+ 37.Kc1 Qxf3 38.f7 Qg4 0–1

Tari 0:3 Firouzja

On board 3, the youngsters Aryan Tari and Alireza Firouzja faced each other. The top junior in the world opted for the dangerous Caro-Kann Defence. Tari tried the Exchange Variation, but still went for an attack.

 

22.g3 [Better was 22.Rc2 but Black has an attack.] 22...g4

[Less powerful is 22...Bxg3 23.fxg3 Qxg3+ 24.Bg2 g4 25.Nf1 Qf4 26.hxg4 Rxg4 27.Rc2 Rag8 28.a4 Nf5 29.Rf2 and it does not work.]

23.hxg4 Rxg4 24.Bh3 Rg7 25.Kh1 [Necessary was 25.Nf1 Bxc1 26.Qxc1 Bxb5, with an advantage for Black.]

25...e5 [25...Bxg3! was already possible: 26.fxg3 Qxg3 27.Ng1 Nf5 and White stands with his back to the wall.]

26.Bxd7 [Tougher was 26.dxe5 fxe5 27.Ng1 Bxh3 28.Nxh3 Bh6]

26...Qxd7 27.Nh2 [27.gxf4 Qh3+ 28.Nh2 Qg2#]

27...Qh3 28.Rg1

 

28...Rag8 [Black increases the pressure move by move.]

29.Qe2 e4 30.Rc3 [30.gxf4 Rg2]

30...Nf5 31.Nxe4 dxe4 32.Qxe4 Bxg3 33.Rg2 Re7 34.Qb1 Rge8 0–1

Game over

Rest day activity

When Firouzja was unable to gain a foothold in the PlayChess online tournaments, it was said that the young Iranian was simply too weak for the best players in the world. Now he leads the Norway Chess Tournament ahead of Carlsen and Caruana. You can guess where his journey is heading...

On the day off, the organizers showed the top chess players from a different angle and kept them busy in a cooking class. Chocolate cakes were baked.

Carlsen inspecting his cake

The world champion also showed his skills at a blindfold simultaneous exhibition.

Carlsen also finds everything blindfolded


Standings after Round 6

1. Firouzja 13
2. Carlsen 12
3. Aronian 11
4. Caruana  10
5. Duda 4
6. Tari 1.5

Round 7 pairings

Fabiano Caruana – Magnus Carlsen
Alireza Firouzja – Levon Aronian
Jan-Krzysztof Duda – Aryan Tari


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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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